Deep Isolation secures funding, launches Estonian study

20 November 2020

Nuclear waste disposal company Deep Isolation's raising of USD20 million in funding shows that "socially responsible investors" are willing to support the company's mission to become an integral part of a low-carbon future, the company's CEO has said. Separately, Deep Isolation EMEA has announced it is collaborating with Fermi Energia on a preliminary study into using Deep Isolation's horizontal deep borehole solution in Estonia.

Deep Isolation's 2019 demonstration of its borehole concept (Image: Deep Isolation)

The USD20 million so-called Series A raise, led by nuclear fuel cycle consulting and technology solutions company NAC International Inc (NAC), represents a significant industry milestone for the disposal of nuclear waste, the companies said.

Deep Isolation CEO Elizabeth Muller said "cleantech investors" are "taking note" as the world responds to "climate disasters" with a renewed sense of urgency. "The fact that Deep Isolation just closed USD20 million in Series A funding shows that socially responsible investors are willing to support a cleantech company with a mission to become an integral part of a low-carbon future," she said.

"As an environmentalist, I believe that safely and permanently disposing of the world’s current nuclear waste inventory while providing a path forward for new nuclear is the responsible thing to do for future generations and the planet."

"Deep Isolation is leveraging proven horizontal drilling and conveyance technology from the oil and gas industry to develop a patent-protected method for effectively disposing of used nuclear fuel and high-level waste. The Deep Isolation method in our view is safer and more efficient than prior competing alternatives and avoids the complexities and risks of putting people underground to emplace and monitor the wastes", NAC International President and CEO Kent Cole said.

Deep Isolation was formed in 2016. Its relationship with NAC began in 2019, when the companies signed an initial agreement. In July of this year they agreed to design, manufacture and supply the canisters that will be used to safely store and/or dispose of nuclear waste in deep boreholes. NAC, which specialises in systems for the storage, transportation, and disposal of used nuclear fuel, high-level waste and other nuclear materials, will now join Deep Isolation's board of directors. NAC’s parent company is Hitachi Zosen Corporation.

Berkeley, California-based Deep Isolation's solution for the management of used nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste involves emplacing it in corrosion-resistant canisters placed in deep horizontal drillholes. In 2019, the company publicly demonstrated its concept when it successfully placed and then retrieved a prototype nuclear waste canister hundreds of metres underground via a borehole.

Estonian collaboration

Deep Isolation EMEA Limited has also announced a collaboration with Fermi Energia of Estonia on a preliminary study that includes an initial evaluation of whether Estonia’s geology would potentially be a suitable environment for a deep borehole repository for used nuclear fuel from a yet-to-be-developed small modular reactor (SMR).

Deep Isolation will work with Fermi Energia, a company founded in February 2019 by a group of Estonian science and energy professionals to deploy SMRs in the country, and Estonian geologic and drilling company Steiger. The study will focus conceptually on safety - defined as the extent to which geology can support the isolation of radionuclides from the biosphere - and cost-effective drilling, Deep Isolation said.

Deep Isolation's technology, which uses existing directional drilling technology, may be the most suitable solution for Estonia for the final disposal of radioactive waste from the Paldiski nuclear submarine and future used nuclear fuel, Kalev Kallemets, a member Fermi Energia's management board, said.

The final report is expected to be completed by early 2021.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News